Just win, baby

Reading the various commentary on last night and I was thinking how it is kind of amazing (and honestly, a little absurd) how much emphasis the press puts on winning.  Especially when delegates (as in Michigan) are awarded proportionally.  Turns out I’m in good company as apparently Nate Silver was actually writing the same thing last night:

Just a quick observation based on what I’m seeing in my Twitter feed tonight: it looks like Mitt Romney’s win in Michigan tonight is producing quite a strong media narrative for him, despite the results having been quite close…

In some ways, Mr. Romney may have benefitted from the late shift in the polls back toward Mr. Santorum, which reset expectations about the race and made Mr. Romney’s victory seem more hard-earned. He also may have benefited from the fact that Michigan counted its vote quite quickly and efficiently (setting a good example for other states). And of course he benefitted from Arizona, where he won by a huge margin tonight.

The point is simply that winning counts for a lot in the way these events are covered, as does exceeding expectations by even a small margin. There isn’t much hedging about the implications of the race based on the margin of victory, unless it is perhaps literally so close that it appears headed for a recount.

But the coverage is fair to Mr. Romney in this sense: Michigan surely would have been portrayed as a terrible outcome for him had he lost the state by 3 points instead.

In my classes I talk about how the media likes to cover politics as a game/sport.  Well, in American sports we don’t accept ties so it makes sense that our journalists don’t want to cover things that way.  Would be interested to see if journalists more steeped in the soccer/football draws are a major part of the game culture would cover things differently.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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